Khawaja opens up on off-field issues after welcome century

After finding form in Australia's second Test against Sri Lanka, Usman Khawaja opened up on the off-field issues affecting his performance.

Usman Khawaja, who made a century against Sri Lanka   -  Getty Images

Usman Khawaja admits off-field problems were affecting his performances after he made an emphatic return to form on day three of Australia's second Test against Sri Lanka.

The top-order batsman made 101 not out in Australia's second innings total of 196-3 declared, with Sri Lanka still trailing by 499 runs at the close of play.

READ| Aus vs SL: Khawaja smacks century as Sri Lanka chases massive total

It was Khawaja's first three-figure score since a magnificent 141 against Pakistan last October, with a knee injury before the recent India series hampering his rhythm and he only went beyond fifty once in the four-match contest.

Away from the pitch, Khawaja's brother Arsalan was arrested and charged over allegations he framed a co-worker in a fake terrorism plot.

And Khawaja, who made a duck in the first innings in Canberra, opened up on his struggle.

A tough summer

"Being around, getting lots of starts during the summer was tough, I've had a tough summer, I've had a lot of stuff going on off the field, which has made things a lot tougher," he said.

"It's just been really nice to have my wife Rachel with me for the majority of the tours and she's been awesome, just to have her around and to go and travel with me, she's been my rock throughout the whole thing.

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"It's been tough, it's something you don't expect to happen. My family's very close to me and I'm very close to my family, so at some level I think it made it tougher to go out and concentrate and execute my skills.

"At the same time while I was playing cricket you sort of forget about everything because you're only concentrating on cricket.

"But it was very taxing, it has been very taxing mentally, and that's why Rachel has been great, being around and trying to take my mind off things. [I'm] Feeling a lot better now than I was probably a month or two ago, but it's been a tough couple of months off the field."

Trial by fire

Sri Lanka, already trailing 1-0 in the two-Test series, needs to bat out two days to salvage a result.

Its cause was not helped by Kusal Perera retiring hurt on 29 in its first-innings total of 215 – in which Mitchell Starc took 5-54 – after being struck on the helmet by a Jhye Richardson bouncer.

Dimuth Karunaratne, who himself had retired hurt after taking a short ball from Starc on the neck on day two, returned having received clearance from Sri Lanka medical staff.

READ| Karunaratne taken to hospital after being hit by short ball

Fast-bowling coach Rumesh Ratnayake, who expects Kusal to bat in the fourth innings, said it was strange to see several incidents in one match, with Kusal having already been struck by Richardson and Dhananjaya de Silva taking a ball to the helmet from a Pat Cummins delivery.

"When it hits the head it's certainly a huge concern for us but this match was a lot on the head, wasn't it?" He said. 

"I mean I've seen bowlers hit batsmen on fast tracks also and certainly if there isn't much pace the ducking process becomes different and the inconsistencies of a pitch – I'm not saying this pitch is inconsistent at all – it's just sometimes you tend to duck for a ball that you shouldn't be ducking. 

"And that we saw in Kusal's thing, he ducked into a ball which was not as ferocious as the ball to Karunaratne."

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